Two doctors stand back to back with arms crossed, with masks, vaccines, and hands being washed in between them

Community Shares: Dealing With Viral Respiratory Infections

When it comes to viral respiratory infections, there’s no shortage of germs out there – from the common cold, to the flu, to RSV, to COVID-19. Over the years, our community members have often shared about their experiences dealing with these illnesses while living with other chronic health conditions.

Here are a few takeaways from their journeys with respiratory infections, from managing risk to coping with the symptoms and side effects of being sick.

A cold is not always a cold

People often think a respiratory infection just means a few days of sniffles and an unpleasant cough. But when you live with a chronic health condition or a compromised immune system, a simple cold or flu can lead to serious symptoms and sometimes critical complications. Even just leaving the house and entering a world seemingly full of germs can feel overwhelming. And sometimes, when a virus does strike, the experience can be downright scary.

“Scared to leave the house during flu season!” shared one community member with COPD.

“Sometimes I feel like wearing a hazmat suit when in public,” said another.

One person shared, “[I] had RSV back in 2017. I was hospitalized for almost a month. Terrifying experience.”

“A simple cold makes my sugar go up despite my sugar being tightly controlled,” said a community member with type 2 diabetes.

For others, however, illness is not a concern! A community member with rheumatoid arthritis said, “Oddly, I rarely get sick, even with medications that lower my resistance to colds, flu, and other health problems.”

Some people just don’t get it

Do you ever feel like the people around you just don’t understand why you worry about getting sick?

One community member with asthma asked, “How do I deal with family members who are not sensitive to respiratory concerns? [People] have often brought their kids over sick with fevers and coughs (even after I’ve explained repeatedly, at length, that my immunities are low).”

Another person living with rheumatoid arthritis said, “People without it just don’t understand how much more exhausting healing is!”

Staying healthy during cold and flu season

In addition to talking to your doctor about how to manage your risk of catching a viral illness, our community members shared a few things you can do to try to stay healthy.

“Washing your hands often will help keep you healthy during cold and flu season,” explained a community member living with heart failure.

Many people shared that they get an annual flu shot to lower their risk of getting a bad case of the flu in the winter. “I get [a flu shot] every year. Getting the flu with asthma could be deadly,” said one person. A person who lives with type 2 diabetes said, “I get it every year. I haven’t had the flu as a diabetic.”

One community member with asthma told this humorous story: “My doctor told me NOT to hug or even shake hands with anyone. He said it’s not worth the risk. Then, as he left, he stuck out his hand to shake my hand to say goodbye! I, of course, fell for it and he said, ‘ANYONE . . . don’t shake anyone’s hand!’ I have not fallen for it since!”

Tell us about your experience

Do you worry about getting sick with a respiratory infection while living with other health conditions? How do you try to stay healthy? Share with us in the comments below.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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